I remember thinking in the dog-days of 2004 that Bush-Cheney faced a tough road to victory. At the national campaign headquarters, the mood was of deep foreboding, combined with the sobering realization that it was the most important election in any of our lifetimes — and we had to win.
But hardly a week passed without some reason to laugh at the Inspector Clouseu-like spectacle of the Kerry campaign. Kerry stepped on every possible landmine. Every word out of his mouth reinforced the “flip-flop” charge. The senior management of the campaign resembled a dinner-party of loud and raucous disagreements on every issue. He visibly made the most important of decisions on the basis of his most recent cellphone conversations. As I wrote at the time:
His news coverage is rarely the product of his own strategy–and when it is, it hurts him anyway.
Democrats who are worried about this performance should consider that John Kerry would almost certainly run the White House exactly as he has run this campaign. That would be a disaster for all of us, but for Democrats most of all.
For Republicans, John Kerry has proved a gift that keeps on giving. What is important for this election (and the next) is that many of Kerry’s problems — indeed, the very fact that he was selected as presidential candidate at all – are symptomatic of a profound structural fissure in the Democratic base: Their positions on national security issues are united only in their hatred for Bush. And now, the person charged with forging at least the appearance of a common position is Howard Dean, who is not only a gift to the Republican Party, but indeed might as well be on Karl Rove’s payroll.
However bad things look for Republicans, remember that the Democrats have an irresolvable problem of basic political communication. That problem is the anvil on which Republicans have shattered their prospects before, and will do again.